I should have known from the way the trip began that this would be a life changing experience. It changed my perspective on the world. I’ve taken many trips before, but our trip to Tanzania was exceptional.
We arrived at the airport in Seattle only to find that our flight to Copenhagen was cancelled due to a blizzard. It looked as if the trip was not going to happen at all. We left the airport and returned home disappointed. However, with persistence, we re-booked travel through Washington, D.C. then to Ethiopia, finally landing at Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania. When it comes to traveling, persistence, flexibility and patience are invaluable.
On arrival, we were met by a congenial native Tanzanian named Bosco who would serve as our guide throughout the safari. Bosco was polite, humble, and an invaluable source of information. He brought us into his world at so many levels.
Bosco explained that the people in the cities can be as dangerous as the animals we would encounter, in large part due to persistent high unemployment and a long history of government corruption. Before leaving for the safari, we stayed in Arusha – the ninth largest city in Tanzania with a population of 165,000. We entered the Arusha Hotel through gates flanked by armed guards. The hotel was tranquil on the inside with beautiful tropical gardens and a picturesque pool. This was in sharp contrast to the streets, bustling with activity and heavily patrolled with men armed with machine guns. After a night’s rest, we departed the hotel for the safari. No sooner than leaving, we were pulled over by police who demanded cash from Bosco. Somehow Bosco managed to talk his way out of paying the bribe.
The safari began with a breathtaking view from the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, formed from the remains of an ancient volcano. The crater is home to the “big 5” safari animals, including the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo. Within hours of ascending into the Crater and enjoying the lush green surroundings, we were gifted with a view of each of the “big 5”.
Following our Crater visit, we moved out onto the Serengeti. The breath of the plains is nearly impossible to comprehend and is second only to the impressive numbers of animals within your range of view. In contrast to the Crater where the animals remain year-round, the Serengeti offers a spectacular view of the largest animal migration on the planet. The plains are much drier than the Crater and are pocked by rock outcroppings called “kopi”.
Although the animals were the main attraction, our visit to a Maasai village was intriguing. The Maasai live in huts constructed by the women, primarily from branches and mud. The huts are clustered together and then encircled in a thorn fence of acacia constructed by the men. At night, the animals are brought inside the fence for protection. Traditionally, the Maasai are known for their ability to survive almost entirely off their cattle, consuming their meat, milk, and blood. Today, they tend to eat mostly a type of cornmeal and milk. The Maasai were quite friendly and as anxious to learn about us as we were to learn about them.
The scenery was spectacular, the animals were remarkable, the Maasai were amazing and the contrast to my world was enlightening. This was the trip of a lifetime!
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